Kindness At Christmas: Teaching Children There's More To The Season Of Goodwill Than Receiving Presents

04/10/2012 17:05 | Updated 22 May 2015
Kindness at Christmas: Teaching children there's more to the season of goodwill than receiving presentsRex

Way back in April, my daughter drew up her Christmas list. She wanted a monkey, a skateboard and a copy of Ghostbusters on DVD.

Admittedly my five-year-old might have set herself up for a teeny bit of disappointment (just to be clear about this, I'm not buying a monkey) but this degree of forward planning just goes to show how excited small children get at the idea of a holiday that seems to be geared around someone giving them things they want.

Eight months down the line, Flea has substituted a dog for the monkey, but is no less excited by the idea of Christmas.

My challenge, though, is how to help Flea understand that Christmas isn't just about people giving her stuff.

For starters, Christmas is about her giving things to the people she loves – like her friends, teachers, and grandparents. So we've spent a little time already discussing things that those people might like, and I'm trying to encourage Flea to make handmade gifts for those people, so that she learns showing appreciation to someone is sometimes about putting your time and love into something, not just picking a gift from the shelf at Boots.

We also use an alternative advent calendar filled with treats mixed with activities, so one day Flea might get a chocolate reindeer, the next day she gets to make her own snow-globe, or Christmas cards.

We are also taking part in Operation Christmas Child, which invites young children to fill a shoebox with simple gifts for a child somewhere in the world who might not receive anything else this Christmas.

As Flea packed her box with simple toiletries and a yo-yo, it really illustrated to her that some children would be hugely grateful for the kind of things she takes for granted.

My friend Jen has a strategy for ensuring her two boys don't get too focused on their own presents at Christmas. "We have a rule that we each have four presents – something we need, something we want, something to eat and something to read," she says. "We also send packages of good quality used toys to people we know will enjoy them, and donate things they don't play with to charity."

Perhaps one of the best ways to ensure children don't get too caught up in materialism at Christmas is not to discuss it. My friend Cathy says that her family just don't talk about presents. That doesn't mean her children miss out on the fun of Christmas, though.

"They might write to Father Christmas and say hello and let them know there are children living at our house, but they don't ask for anything," says Cathy.

Whatever approach I take, steps need to be taken to ensure Flea understands that Christmas isn't all about her – and soon.

Last night we were chatting about Christmas and I mentioned that I hoped someone brought me something lovely, too. "Oh, stop joking around Mummy," said my daughter. "Grown-ups don't get presents at Christmas."

Considering I've got my eye on a new iPod, this could be a problem.


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